Rites of Passage in Australia

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Rituals act as signposts to assist us in recognizing the importance of particular passages in our lives. In an Australian context, the passage from childhood to adulthood is less formal, however, it mirrors the common structures found in rites of passage and ceremonial initiations in most cultures. The transition from secondary to tertiary education, a progression from one liminal space to another, is a process which also has structuralized social conventions; the rituals of high school graduation, the transitory period of liminality, the assimilation into university society. Society's formal rituals serve to signpost the individual through the transitory process and to recognize the possible stressors associated with this period; to provide a path through the liminal state. The final year of secondary education, a period of life with mutual experiences for all graduates, is accompanied by a level of comradeship and recognition of common ambiguity of social role. All ‘nonliminal distinctions disappear[ed]' (Schultz & Lavenda, 2005, p.167) as we were unified by the common rite of passage we were undertaking. Arnold Van Gennep (1960) noted that any movement within the social structure involves a temporary separation from the individual's role in that society (Schultz & Lavenda, 2005, p167). In !Kung culture, the formalized separation during the male initiation ceremony of Choma, demonstrates the structure found universally in most rituals of social movement, as well as the necessity for a period of separation from social role (Shostak 2002, p.215). Separation from the social position of boys under the authority of the academic institution, was a process principally marked by liberation from the restraints and regulations of high school life, and an introduction to the responsibilities of manhood. The ritual of the graduation ceremony symbolizes this comradeship through the celebration of the ‘essential and genetic human bond[s]' (Turner 1969, p.97). This bond was...
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